Business travel is not dead, according to accommodation giant IHG.
Based on booking figures across it brands, which include Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza and Staybridge Suites, the group says business travel has “quietly resumed”.
“The frequent headlines declaring the death of business travel are simply not true,” said Derek DeCross, Senior VP of Global Sales.
“Even last year – before vaccines and when travel restrictions were at their strictest – we saw small to mid-size companies begin travelling again,” he said.
“We observed that the desire for business travel never fully went away.”
In the UK, IHG said there are visible signs of recovery, with August seeing the highest level of UK corporate travel bookings so far this year, driven by urban and suburban markets.
Its data shows Government business, manufacturing, transportation, construction and engineering, are leading the recovery.
“It’s so encouraging to see the upward trajectory for corporate travel globally, and that this is also true for the UK and the rest of Europe” said Debbie Male, Head of Sales, Europe for IHG Hotels & Resorts
“Corporate bookings continue to be heavily driven by domestic projects in the UK, for example transportation, infrastructure and government business, which has continued throughout the pandemic.”
Geographically, the top corporate travel markets in the UK are the M4 Corridor, London, East Anglia and Essex, Birmingham, and Aberdeen.
“A lot has been said about the long-term impact of the pandemic on business travel, but customers have told us how important this remains to them, and we fundamentally believe it will continue to return, even if it looks a bit different,” said Male.
“Although we could see fewer one-day trips for a two-hour meeting, more people may choose to blend business and leisure travel, and we expect more events to take place as companies bring colleagues together in light of a bigger shift to smaller offices and remote working.”
Data also showed that major companies are focusing on destination-driven corporate gatherings versus large-scale conferences and events.
The group’s IHG Business Edge programme, aimed at SMEs, has attracted nearly 11,000 accounts so far this year.
Currently, there are more than 50,000 registered accounts on the platform and IHG continues to see strong momentum in the SME segment.
Meanwhile the group’s groups and Meetings bookings have steadily increased throughout 2021, almost reaching 2019 levels in June 2021.
IHG said sports and entertainment is leading the groups and meeting industry in Europe, alongside Government, media and publishing.
“As has been the trend throughout 2021, we’re continuing to see the return of face-to-face gatherings in the corporate sector, relatively short-lead bookings, and the groups and meetings tend to be smaller gatherings compared to pre-pandemic,” Male added.
IHG reports that the top destinations for 2021 UK groups and meetings bookings are London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.
Across Europe, the revival is strongest in Paris, Berlin, and Munich.